The Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison had been forewarned that things would be done a little differently at the installation convocation of Peace and Unity Chapter No 3966, but nothing had quite prepared him for so many eccentricities in the ritual.
The ceremony was far from what he would be most accustomed to and he was to discover that his Masonic knowledge would be advanced more than he expected on that day. Peace and Unity Chapter’s ceremony is unique in the Blackpool Group and is amended each year to be specific to that installation. Whilst the basic format is more akin to ancient ritual of the Province of East Lancashire, it has been modified and is now an idiosyncrasy peculiar to P and U, as the chapter is commonly referred to.
Appearing equally confused yet enjoying the occasion as much as Tony were Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals David Randerson, Terry Hudson, Ian Robertson, Harry Cox, David Harrison, Ian Ward and Ron Sands, along with Blackpool Group Chairman John Turpin, his vice chairman and Royal Arch lead David Cook and acting Provincial grand officers; Scribe Nehemiah David Barr, Neil MacSymons, Peter Maxwell and Juan Topping.
Prior to a recognisable opening of the convocation, chapter director of ceremonies Richard Anderson presented a scintillating opening address, a rarely heard piece in the Blackpool and Fylde Groups of chapters. Proceedings then got under way and the general business was dispatched swiftly and efficiently by retiring first principal Glenn O’Brien in preparation for the entrance of the distinguished guests.
No sooner had they settled in their places than the eminent companions lay back in their chairs with inquisitive and benevolent expressions on their faces. They felt energized, attentive and captivated. Then by degrees, like a smoky haze, bafflement descended on them; faintly at first, and then more resolutely till, after varying periods of time, each of the notables was in a state of manifest confusion.
An early peculiarity in the ceremony was the presentation of the three principals elect to the installing first principal and his recital of an explanation of a Royal Arch principal’s responsibilities, augmented by readings from the chapter’s Scribe Ezra Malcolm Woods. In response, the three principals elect were required to take an obligation to the governance of the chapter, prior to the standard obligation to their respective offices.
Despite the obvious confusion that the eccentricities of the ceremony caused, Randal Boyd, Emanuel Adeoye and Robert Wareham were successfully and delightfully installed in the chairs of first, second and third principals respectively. But as would be expected of P and U chapter, various novel additions were introduced into the proceeding. Yet, keeping some semblance of normality, installing first principal Glenn O’Brien had enlisted the assistance of Giles Berkley and Ron Strangwick in the offices of installing second principal and installing third principal and Bernard Hopkinson as installing Scribe Nehemiah. Keeping the crew on the straight and narrow and ensuring that no details were overlooked was director of ceremonies Richard Anderson.
As the officers of the chapter were invested, normality returned to the proceedings and the programme continued on traditional lines, offering a degree of welcome respite to clouded minds. Touches of genius emerged from the confusion with dazzling robe addresses to the three principals; Richard Anderson to the first principal Randal Boyd; Giles Berkley to second principal Emanuel Adeoye and Ron Strangwick to third principal Robert Wareham.
These three performances set a standard that was to be sustained throughout the remaining addresses. Royal Arch lead for the Blackpool Group David Cook confirmed his credentials with a masterful recital of the address to the three principals and stalwart of the chapter Richard Anderson reinforced his supremacy with a spectacular address to the officers of the chapter. It only remained for Assistant to the Provincial Grand Principals David Randerson to provide the icing on the cake with his address to the companions and, as would be expected of one of the calibre of David, it was performed with measured brilliance and artistry.
There was no doubt in the minds of the performers and attendees that the ceremony had been intriguing, delightful and highly successful, even if they were not sure of what had actually been going on. It was in a state of muddled euphoria that they made their way to the bar to fortify themselves and clear their minds prior to decanting into the dining suite. Once there and helping themselves liberally from the dishes of seasonal vegetables, desultory chit-chat invariably focused in on the contents of the ceremony and for Tony Harrison and the other guests, clarity finally surfaced.
By the time of the customary speeches, all was as clear as crystal and rejuvenated minds enabled the conveyance of a string of fine discourses. Following his triumphant oration of the address to the companions, David Randerson provided a light-hearted but sincere response to the toast to grand officers and in turn, proposed the toast to the Grand Superintendent.
Tony, in his response to David, was lavish in his praise of all those who had participated in the ceremony. He had been captivated by the idiosyncrasies of P & U’s workings but described it as having been fun and those close to Tony are only too aware that his favourite axiom is that Freemasonry is ‘fun’. He was also extremely grateful to all the acting Provincial grand officers in attendance and the companions who had put so much work into organising the occasion.
Regarding Provincial matters, he encouraged the companions to recruit new members from Craft Masonry into the Royal Arch, pointing out that the degree is an essential completion of their Masonic journey. He also encouraged the companions to support the Masonic Charitable Foundation 2021 Festival, saying that the Province had been honoured in being selected by the United Grand Lodge of England to launch the newly-formed national charity.
Dave Barr in his response to the toast to Provincial grand officers was equally enthusiastic in his praise of the installation ceremony and was eager to reassure the participants that he had been able to follow it closely and that he believed he had understood it in its entirety.
The time had then come for the immediate past and installing first principal Glenn O’Brien to provide a few facts and anecdotes about the three newly-installed principals. He relished the opportunity and accomplished the task in an articulate and easy style. Providing the traditional song to the three principals, multifaceted David Harrison punched out a sincere and passionate rendition, superbly accompanied by John Wall.
Grand Superintendent Tony Harrison may have been somewhat bamboozled by the uniqueness of the P & U workings but they definitely dealt him the most important ingredient in his Masonic list of wants – a great deal of fun and enjoyment.